TfL rule out a permanent ban on motor vehicles
Empty chairs for H&F, Justine Greening MP with Geoff Hobbs and David Hughes from TfL
Justine Greening, MP for Putney organised a Hammersmith Bridge public meeting on Thursday (20 June) at an update was given on the latest situation.
Two directors from Transport to London (TfL), Geoff Hobbs, Director of Public Transport Service Planning, and David Hughes, Investment Delivery Planning Director (aka buses and funding) attended but there were no representatives from Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
The meeting was well attended, but it was not a full house or standing room only, unlike meetings recently held in Barnes.
TfL set out the history of the grade 2 listed wrought iron and wooden bridge designed by Joseph Bazalgette and the circumstances of the immediate closure and the actions currently being undertaken.
TfL explained to the audience that the bridge before closure was carrying
20,000 vehicles every day which included 6 bus routes taking 30 buses over the bridge each hour - 1 every 2 minutes.
The TfL directors backed Hammersmith & Fulham Council's (H&F) decision to close the bridge with no notice as the risk was of "catastrophic failure".
TfL is currently paying for the investigative work on the bridge to "ensure the momentum to get the bridge back open", this includes optioneering. The three options they are investigating with H&F are:
1) The bridge remains open to cyclists and pedestrians but no motor vehicles
2) The bridge is restored to motorised vehicles with the same weight restrictions prior to the closure
3) The bridge is restored and improved to allow full motor access with no weight restriction.
TfL hope that this analysis will be completed by August and that a decision will then be made on which option to follow - however the period of closure they could not confirm as it "depended upon the cost of the chosen option". Both Ms Greening and TfL believe that the cost and who pays will include central government due to the scale of the project. David Hughes told residents that option 1 had to be included to ensure HM Treasury would consider funding when approached, and that it was not an option that TfL nor H&F are considering as a serious final option - well received by some residents who had during the meeting described this as "reckless insanity to consider a traffic free option".
Both Ms Greening and the TfL directors accepted that the bridge closure has had a significant impact not only on bus services in Roehampton but also increasing congestion and the potential for extra air pollution in Putney.
The question of a tunnel was not an option according to David Hughes as it would be "way more expensive", however Cllr Fleur Anderson who attended the attended the meetings in Barnes with Roehampton councillors and hundreds of local people to hear Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond Councils', told this website that she was: "glad to hear that Hammersmith and Fulham Council Leader is also looking into additional ways to reduce congestion such as a tunnel.”
TfL apologised for any inconveniences caused by the immediate changes to the bus services following closure - residents of Roehampton and especially affected by these, and many of the audience felt very strongly on this issue. TfL have a consultation to try and rectify this and the directors and Ms Greening encouraged residents to go email their views to email@example.com.
The meeting was then opened to the public for questions - there was time for twenty three questions which ranged from the frustrations on the bus routes (especially the 72 and 265 routes) to legal liability, tunneling, the options under review and why H&F had allowed the bridge to deteriorate so far.
With the lack of H&F representatives at the meeting it was left to Ms Greening and TfL to answer whether the council had knowingly let the bridge deteriorate and in doing so "succeeding where the Luftwaffe failed" - TfL diplomatically said it was common practice to "manage assets" and this was not unique to Hammersmith Bridge as budgets are tight. Ms Greening was less sympathetic to the council but said it is now the time to "cut to the chase and get solutions" sorted. She and neighbouring MP's Zac Goldsmith and Greg Hands are working together to ensure central government would work to get this major artery route sorted.
With regards the issue of increased congestion in Putney, Geoff Hobbs said TfL have been rephasing traffic lights but asked resident to let them know of junctions that they believe would use tweaking, one resident asked about suspending parking on certain routes to ensure faster flowing traffic - this is a council issue and we have asked the council to comment.
Cllr Rosemary Torrington was at the meeting and she told this website: "We are already lobbying for much improved bus services during the unfortunate closure of Hammersmith bridge. The loss of the 72 route south of the river needs to be addressed urgently and there are other improvements that can be made to junctions in Putney to improve traffic flow. The Council is preparing a proposal around this and will be approaching TfL for funding to implement. Residents can sign the petition for the 72 and we would urge them to respond to TfL’s consultation as well. We’ll be campaigning with Justine Greening to get the bridge reopened as soon as possible".
Ms Greening closed the meeting, encouraging residents to contact TfL and told this website:
"The closure of Hammersmith Bridge is massively disruptive for our whole community, especially in Roehampton and Putney. I held a constructive meeting with TfL last night so that residents could find out what the situation is on Hammersmith Bridge and what the options are to fix it. We also had the opportunity to raise concerns and make suggestions on specific issues like the 72 bus route.
I’ll be working with TfL to make sure that the plans deliver for our community and will continue to keep residents updated. I’d like to thank all the residents who came along to give TfL their views.”
June 21, 2019